On Sunday, President Obama told CNN's Candy Crowley that he is "going to do everything I can to close" the detention facility in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
Then, on Monday, the news broke that his Special Envoy charged with negotiating detainee transfers from GITMO is resigning. The resignation may or may not be due to disagreements with the Defense Department, as the New York Times speculated, but I don't suppose it bodes well for Obama's plan to close GITMO by transferring the remaining detainees to other countries.
Even worse, last Thursday the State Department announced that it has designated a Saudi national named Ibrahim al-Rubaysh, a former GITMO detainee who had been repatriated to Saudi Arabia in 2006, as a heavy hitter al-Qa'ida leader who is currently active in Yemen.
The Department of State has designated the Egyptian Ajnad Misr group, and Ibrahim al-Rubaysh, an al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) senior leader, as Specially Designated Global Terrorists under Executive Order (E.O.) 13224, which targets terrorists and those providing support to terrorists or acts of terrorism.
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Ibrahim al-Rubaysh is a senior leader of AQAP, a designated FTO and Specially Designated Global entity. He serves as a senior advisor for AQAP operational planning and is involved in the planning of attacks. He has served as a senior AQAP sharia official since 2013, and as a senior AQAP sharia official, al-Rubaysh provides the justification for attacks conducted by AQAP. In addition, he has made public statements, including one in August 2014 where he called on Muslims to wage war against the United States. In addition, since October 14, 2014, Ibrahim al-Rubaysh has been subject to a five million dollar Reward for Justice [here].
We had the guy, but we let him go? Well, that's embarrassing. Especially considering that the U.S. military recommended Ibrahim al-Rubaysh for continued detention in a memo dated 30 November 2005, according to declassified records published in the New York Times [here]:
Executive Summary: Detainee is assessed as n Al-Qaida member who traveled to Afghanistan intent on training for jihad in Chechnya, but stayed and joined the Taliban. Detainee stayed in Al-Qaida guesthouses and attended that group's Al-Farouq terrorist training camp. He participated in hostilities in Tora Bora. Detainee is also linked to known Al-Qaida members. It is assessed this detainee is a MEDIUM risk, as he may pose a threat to the US, its interests and allies. JTF GTMO determined this detainee is of MEDIUM intelligence value.
Despite that assessment, we released Ibrahim al-Rubaysh just a few months later. Why be in a hurry to release a detainee who was an AQ member captured while escaping from Afghanistan, and who might pose a future threat to our interests?
Beats me. Maybe someone was overcome with emotion after reading his sappy poem "Ode to the Sea", which was published by the University of Iowa Press.
ODE TO THE SEA
By Ibrahim al-Rubaish
O sea, give me news of my loved ones.
Were it not for the chains of the faithless, I would have dived into you, And reached my beloved family, or perished in your arms.
And it goes on from there, a real tear-jerker about how the cruel Caribbean Sea was keeping him captive far from his loved ones.
Don't feel too sorry for poor Ibrahim. After the U.S. government unchained him in 2006, he left his beloved family behind in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia when he fled to Yemen to rejoin al-Qa'ida.
This experience with al-Qa'ida's poet-planner is bound to kill whatever appetite Congress may have had for further detainee releases. Will Obama actually close GITMO in his final quarter? Don't bet on it.